The Nesting Game

By Anita Garner

Staying inside for long periods of time isn’t unusual for some of us. We’re nesters. If a cozy spot isn’t available, we’ll make one.

Be still my heart.

I’m a magpie, gathering a few things that make me feel at home and a few other things that turn a nest into a work space when needed. Everywhere I visit, everywhere I’ve lived, it’s always one small spot that gets my attention. No matter how large the room is, I’ll end up using just one part.

The British have a nice word for these kinds of places. They call a small, peaceful space a “snug.”

There’ll be a place to set down a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, whichever screens I’m using, pad and pen, magazines, books, pillows, snacks, move a lamp closer, turn a comfy chair to face a favorite view.  Window or not, there should be something peaceful to look at.

Drawn to rustic

Whether it’s an estate or a cottage or an old house for sale, visiting in person or online, I play the pick-a-room game.  Which of these rooms will become a nest?  I appreciate, admire, absorb and when  I leave, one room always stays longest in memory. Online I check out country manors where we see lots of family libraries and before the tour moves on, I’ve chosen a place over by the window.

Okay this is Highclere Castle.  Not your typical “snug.”
It’s Downton Abbey. I’ll take that chair way back there on the left.

I’m interested in people who fix up falling down buildings and reclaim barns and turn piles of wood into habitable homes.  Right now I’m on Instagram helping a family choose paint colors for their summer cabin on a lake somewhere.  I don’t know their names or where this lake is, (maybe I have been inside too long) but they ‘re talking about screening a small porch and that’s interesting. Lots of nesting opportunities on a screened in porch.

If I could create the perfect Instagram account or one perfect magazine for compulsive nesters like me, it would be called,

“Cottages & Cabins & Barns & Castles With Corners
& Nooks & Some Nice Flowers & Trees Nearby &
Once In A While Some Recipes.”


Small Spaces

That’s a text I sent myself one day
to remind me, simple is perfect.

Cottages and bungalows and cabins.

Big, soft chairs.

Old lamps

Corners and nooks and window seats and alcoves 


Places to write become places to live.  I like it that way.  Even in a big house, I’ll end up in one room, in one corner with a comfortable chair,  a small table, a light to turn up or down.  A few old and much-loved tchotchkes here and there.  A window is nice.

I like looking at tiny houses.  Converted sheds in the back yard draw me in. Little outbuildings turned into offices with a single bed or comfy couch in case of company. Or in case the occupant needs a nap. That’s just about perfect.

It’s clear this is now a lifelong pattern.  Whatever the size of the place, I live mostly in one room. When I’m tired of it, I go into another room.  That’s two rooms so far.

The concept of small spaces seems normal for a writer.  Less distractions.  It’s cozy enough to be filled with thoughts, or in the absence of them, it’ll contain the angst.

Too big for the block?

Here’s what I see on a morning walk:   Cars parked on the street bumper to bumper, with barely an inch between them.  Vehicles with their wheels up on the sidewalk where baby strollers and wheelchairs and assisted-walkers fear to roll.

Vehicles clog the small village where I live, parked along every winding lane, every mountain road, many of them parked askew so that this morning as I walk carefully among them, a driver approaches, weaving through the space that’s left, becoming a skilled participant in the getting-to-work marathon.  As more walkers and runners and kids with backpacks  join in on their way to school, it becomes a dodgem game.

How did one small town get so full of shiny metal? 

Well, here’s a cottage that’s been expanded with its garage “repurposed” and its driveway fenced off.  Four vehicles park out front.  Here’s new construction – a giant house going up where a cottage once lived.  It’s being built fence to fence with no yard, no garage and no driveway.  More vehicles join the lineup. 

As I wander, I wonder something else.  If this house is too big for the block, is it also too big for the times?  

I do remember how it got like this.  I participated.  The thinking was, I’ve worked hard and my home (and sometimes what I drive) are part of my very identity.  If I can pay for it, I’m entitled to it.

It’s going to take a whole lot of re-thinking to change that part of our American dream.  We’ll need to figure out a new personal definition of success, ways to find gratification in making better choices.  And we’re just now beginning to ask the tough questions:  Is this home/car necessary?  Is it right for the preservation of the larger community? 

The biggest personal hurdle is getting past what is our right and moving on to our responsibility.  The toughest question is,  just because we can, should we?

Ó Anita Garner 2009